What does it take to be No. 1? There is no concrete answer.
Each person must overcome and persevere through different circumstances in order to reach their full potential.
Derrick Green is no different. The Hermitage High (Richmond, Va.) five-star standout was named the top running back in the recently-released Scout300 final rankings for the 2013 class.
But he was not always the best running back, and his journey to the top was not easy.
When Green stepped on his high school’s campus in the fall of 2009, he weighed 268 pounds -- much too heavy for a traditional running back.
“I knew I was going to do what I had to do to transform my body and hopefully get to that No. 1 spot,” said the 5-foot-11, 220-pound Green. It definitely shows that hard work pays off.”
Hermitage head coach Patrick Kane admitted he initially had his doubts about Green, who recently named Michigan as his leader, but is also still considering Auburn, Florida State, Miami,and Tennessee.
“The first time we saw him, he was eighth-grader and we were doing 7-on-7 (drills) and he came out and watched,” said Kane. “He was a little chunky at the time. He said what a lot of kids say -- I want to be a running back. We said OK, that’s fine. But in your mind, you’re thinking he’d probably be a good looking offensive guard.”
Rather than rush to judgment, though, Kane tried to help mold Green.
“You always encourage your kids to follow their dreams and he started working out with us,” Kane said. “He realized he needed to reshape his body and he was very dedicated to the workouts.”
The hard work and dedication started to pay off. The summer after his freshman season, Kane realized Green had a chance to be a special player.
That fall, the sophomore became the starting varsity running back at Hermitage.
“He started getting a lot of attention early on, but he continued to work hard and tried to get better,” said Kane. “A lot of times, you will see a kid get that type of attention and slack off. He’s never done that. If anything, he’s turned it up a notch.”
For many high school kids, the attention could be overwhelming, but a strong family support group enabled him to remain focused.
“Throughout this whole process, my parents have preached that it is important to stay humble,” said Green. “Staying humble will get me further in life than my football skills. You can’t get big-headed because it can get taken from you so easily. I've just tried to stay level-headed and thank God for all of it.”
Kane also cites Green’s family as a major reason the star running back accomplished so much. The commitment his parents made to their son cannot be overstated.
“He’s fortunate to have loving parents that are willing to go the extra mile for him and I think that’s made all the difference in the world for Derrick,” said Kane.
“His mother wants him to go to the best situation where he can flourish academically and athletically. She has a clear view of what they’re looking for as far as a school. She’s a no-nonsense person.”
Green’s humility impressed Kane. Over his career, the running back has always shied away from the spotlight.
“He always gives credit to his teammates,” Kane said. “It’s kind of neat to see somebody appreciate the recognition they receive. He doesn't expect it -- he appreciates it.”
While Green worked extremely hard, he acknowledges that many people helped him become the person and player he is today.
“God, first and foremost has helped me get to this point,” said Green. “Also my family -- my mother is the backbone to everything. She’s believed in me since day one. And my coaching staff and teammates -- without them I wouldn't have had the stats and the success.”
During Green’s four-year varsity career, the Panthers won four district championships, two regional championships, and been to one state final. Individually, Green has rushed for 3,412 yards and 48 touchdowns, both school records. Not bad for someone who once looked more like an offensive lineman.
“I can’t think of anybody that is more talented,” said Kane. “There’s been a pool of talented athletes I've coached or that have come through this region and he’s right there with any of them.”
Even with all his success on the football field, Green is most proud of his what he accomplished off of it.
“I would definitely say making the honor role is what I’m most proud of,” Green said. “You need the grades to get to where you want to be. For me, academics has always first at my house.”
His athletic and academic accomplishments combined with an infectious personality -- make Green much more than just a great football player -- but more importantly a great person.
“One thing I’ll remember most about Derrick is that he’s very quick to smile -- and you can’t help but smile back,” Kane said. “He’s the type of kid that always has a big grin on his face, enjoys what he’s doing, enjoys his teammates, and enjoys every aspect of football being a team sport.”
Although Green is one of the most physically gifted prospects in the country, it is his mental toughness that will likely help him reach his full potential. Those things together, though, make Green’s future even brighter.
“The sky is the limit for Derrick,” Kane said. “There is no doubt in my mind that he will work as hard as he can to achieve his goals. He has the unique ability that most kids and adults don’t have -- a focus and desire to get to “point A” -- and he will stay focused and make the sacrifices to do what it takes to get there.”
Those goals include starting as a freshman in college, helping the school he chooses win national title, winning Heisman trophy, and playing in the NFL.
“I've had to work as hard as I could to get where I’m at right now, but I’m not done yet,” Green said. “I’m preparing for college -- preparing for the next level.”
Green will make his college decision on Saturday, Jan. 26 at 4 p.m.